Matt talks about preparing for his year abroad
Chapter details: Matt describes the advice given to him by his home university departments as 'alarmist' because he felt that they exaggerated and generalised potential problems experienced by Erasmus students
Matt
Subject: French and Spanish
Student status: Home, Graduate
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Transcript:

What we did was we had a lot of meetings, depending on your department they give you a briefing, like a brochure or something to take with you, first of all you made your selection of what university you were going to so I read all the kind of background to it there, the sort of biography of the city and decided which one I'd prefer to go to, so I made my choice of the universities I wanted to go to and then there was a series of meetings and they gave you a bit of advice.

A lot of it, I have to say, was quite alarmist, a lot of it you get there and you think 'What on earth were they going on about? That doesn't really make much sense.'  It was very odd because either they prepared you too much and they gave you too much information and a lot of it was scaremongering. A lot of it wasn't accurate or there was no information and when you get there there's confusion and no one knew what was happening or what you were supposed to do. A lot of it you had to find out yourself, and it's a good experience I think but sometimes not very pleasant.

Can you give me some examples of the sort of advice you got, the things that were alarmist or the things you felt weren't covered.

A lot of it was to do with the university about how things worked and I think, I went to university in Spain and in France it was a lot better organised and it was a lot smoother but obviously in Spain there's a stereotype that's not going to be well organised and it's going to be a bit chaotic and generally that was quite accurate and it was quite true, not a lot, not a lot of information was given and when you got there you couldn't find out the information that you wanted. So in terms of coping with it, there wasn't really any way apart from just to persist with it but because I'm not a very persistent person you kind of just fall by the wayside laughs.

So that was some advice that you actually found was quite accurate. What else about the stuff you were saying that you felt was scaremongering?

I guess the way it worked was that these information packs were put together with past student experiences and everyone's experiences is going to be personal. I mean unpleasant things happen to people, some people got robbed, some people got hassled and stuff and so they put all that into their feedback and it just kind of filtered through. I don't think there was any kind of like objective filters that people were putting on their information and I think there was, the feeling that I got is that they were being a little bit over protective.

They wanted to know what was happening but I think a lot of it was inaccurate and they could have done a lot better by saying 'This is the city and this is what is happening in this area and that's what happens in that area and the university's here if you want to get advice on this, a good contact is this person.' That would have been a better way, a lot more calming way because when you get there it's so overwhelming.  I mean you think that it's Europe and it's going to be the same and it is, people dress the same, and they eat the same things and they wear the same clothes and listen to the same music but when you get there it's so different.